Recyclers Going Broke (just like everybody else)

December 8, 2008 at 3:59 pm Leave a comment


The NY Times reported this morning that the recycling industry throughout the US is being negatively affected by the economic meltdown. It seems that the prices for recyclable materials have dropped, thereby making it unaffordable for many recycling companies to keep collecting materials. In big cities like New York, it’s not causing to much of a problem, because the cost of sending trash to the landfill is still higher than the cost of getting it recycled, but small-town Americans are seeing their recycling programs suspended or cut back, as the companies who collect their reycling are running out of space, an the companies who turn the recyclables into new stuff will only buy the materials at exceptionally low prices.

Contrary to my post the other day, this scenario is an example of how the economic crisis is, in fact, bad for the environment. Even if the crisis is causing Americans to cut back on their consumption of consumer goods, more of their garbage is now going to the landfill instead of the recycling plant, which balances out any possible positive results of our new found stinginess.

If the current government an the incoming administration support a bailout for the Auto Industry in the name of saving jobs and promoting greener cars for Americans, I think it’s only fair that they also institute some sort of recycling sector bailout that would give incentives to companies to buy USA-made recycled products. Many of our recyclable materials have traditionally been sent to China to get processed and sold back to us as paper, car parts and other small consumer goods, so promoting local processors and giving American companies a reason (tax breaks) to buy our own trash and make it into new things here would have the dual effect of keeping money and jobs here at home, and keeping trash out of our landfills. The new administration may also want to consider simply outlawing the use of newly mined or logged materials in times when recyclables are in surplus (like now).

Aside from just reducing landfill tonnage, recycling saves massive amounts of energy and other resources – there’s a great Economist article that outlined all of this a couple years ago – give it a read for more info.


Entry filed under: conservation, politics, rant time, recycling. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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